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VA-85 BLACK FALCONS
The CNO approved a change in the squadron’s insignia
on 7 May 1958. Colors for the black falcon insignia are as follows: a
white background outlined in black; the falcon is black with a white eye;
the scroll has a white background outlined in black, with blacklettering.
Nickname: Black Falcons, 1958–1994.
Chronology of Significant Events
May 1958: As part of an Atlantic Fleet training exercise
(LANTRAEX 1-58), two of the squadron’s AD-6 Skyraiders, flown by
Lieutenant (jg)s Strang and Woods, flew nonstop from Forrestal
(CVA 59), operating off the coast of Jacksonville, Florida, to NAS North
Island. The flight was conducted below 1000 feet to demonstrate the low
level and long range capability of the squadron. Two days later the aircraft
returned, nonstop, to Forrestal.
5 Feb 1963: The squadron’s commanding officer,
Commander C. H. Mundt, was killed in an air crash.
22 Dec 1965: The squadron’s commanding officer,
Commander B. J. Cartwright, and his bombardier/navigator, Lieutenant Ed
Gold, failed to return from a strike into North Vietnam and are listed
as missing in action, presumed dead.
21 Apr 1966: The squadron’s commanding officer,
Commander J. E. Keller, and his bombardier/navigator,Lieutenant Commander
E. E. Austin, were killed in action during a mission over North Vietnam.
27 Apr 1966: While serving with VA-85 as a bombardier/navigator
in an A-6A, Lieutenant (jg) Brian E. Westin was awarded the Navy Cross
for heroism during a combat mission over North Vietnam when he risked
his own life to save that of his wounded pilot, Lieutenant W. R. Westerman.
6 Sep 1968: The squadron’s commanding officer,
Commander K. L. Coskey, was shot down over North Vietnam. His bombardier/navigator,
Lieutenant Commander R. G. McKee, was rescued but Commander Coskey became
a POW. He survived the internment at Hanoi and was released on 14 March
Jul 1974: Following a coup that overthrew the government
of Cyprus, VA-85 operated from Forrestal in the vicinity of Cyprus
and provided air cover for the evacuation of Americans and foreign nationals
from the island.
May–Jun 1981: Following increased military action
and Israeli reprisal raids against Syrian missile positions in southern
Lebanon, Forrestal was ordered to the eastern Mediterranean.
VA-85 operated from the carrier while on station off the coast of Lebanon.
Jul 1982: Following the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in
June and the siege of west Beirut, Forrestal operated off the
coast of Lebanon with VA-85 prepared to provide air support for a possible
evacuation of Americans.
Aug–Sep 1982: Forrestal and its embarked
squadrons provided air cover for the landing of 800 U.S. Marines in Beirut,
Lebanon. The Marines became part of the multi-national peacekeeping force
in that country.
4 Dec 1983: During Kennedy’s operations off the
coast of Lebanon in support of the Multi-national Peacekeeping Force,
several of the carrier’s F-14 reconnaissance aircraft received hostile
fire from Syrian surface-to-air missile and anti-aircraft positions on
3December. A retaliatory strike was flown by elements of CVW-3 and aircraft
from Independence (CV 62)against the Syrian antiaircraft positions near
Hammana, Lebanon. One of the squadron’s A-6Es was lost in the attack,
its pilot, Lieutenant Mark Lange, was killed and the NFO, Lieutenant Robert
Goodman, was captured by the Syrians. He was released 4 January 1985.
Jul 1984: The squadron operated in the Caribbean and
off the coast of Central America to assist the Coast Guard with drug interdiction
10 Oct 1985: The squadron’s KA-6D tanker aircraft
refueled F-14s from Saratoga (CV 60) enroute to their intercept of an
Egyptian 737 airliner that was carrying Arab terrorists who had hijacked
the Italian cruise ship Achille Lauro on 7 October and murdered an American
citizen. The F-14s forced the airliner to land at NAS Sigonella, Sicily,
leading to the capture of the terrorists.
24 Mar 1986: Libyan missiles were fired at U.S. Naval
forces operating in the Gulf of Sidra. This action precipitated a retaliation
against Libya by squadrons from Saratoga (CV 60), America (CV 66) and
Coral Sea (CV 43). VA-85’s A-6Es conducted a follow-up attack with
Rockeye bombs on a Libyan Combattante II G-class fast attack missile craft
that had been hit by a Harpoon missile fired by a VA-34 aircraft. The
attack resulted in the sinking of the Combattante II. VA-85 aircraft also
attacked a Nanuchka II class missile corvette with Rockeyes, damaging
25 Mar 1986: VA-55 attacked a Nanuchka with Rockeyes,
damaging but not stopping the corvette. A VA-85 aircraft then launched
a Harpoon against the corvette which resulted in its sinking.
6 Sep 1989: Squadron aircraft flew missions in support
of the evacuation of personnel from the American Embassy in Beirut, Lebanon,
due to the unstable situationin that country.
17 Jan–28 Feb 1991: The squadron participated in
Operation Desert Storm, combat strikes against targets in Iraq and the
Kuwaiti theater of operations. During this period of combat the squadron
flew 585 combat sorties, consisting of 1,700 flight hours and expended
over 850 tons of ordnance.
Aug 1993: Squadron aircraft flew missions over Bosnia-Hercegovina
in support of U. N. Operation Deny Flight.
Nov 1993: Squadron aircraft flew sorties over Mogadishu,
Somalia, in support of U. N. Operation Continue Hope.
Dec 1993: Squadron aircraft provided support for reconnaissance
missions over southern Iraq, part of Operation Southern Watch.
There have been a total of 30 Commanding Officers of The Black
Falcons as an A-6 squadron. The first was CDR John McKee in Feb
1963 and the last was CDR John Scheffler in Sept 1993.
That is a VA-85 bird on the Connie 1969-70 Cruise. My
stick (Charlie Andrew) was an old Spad driver and the whole cruise wanted
to land with the canopy open like they did in the Spad. We were the last
to land on the final mission of the last line period. Charlie asked if
I wanted to land with the canopy open. He was the maintenance officer
and I am a JG. So I opened the canopy. We boltered 4 times. More than
Charlie had boltered all together on the entire cruise. As we boltered
on the first pass Charlie screamed at me to close the f&#*ing canopy.
I figured they probably heard it on the flight deck as we boltered. They
finally figured out we had a weak dashpot and propped the wires up so
on our 5th pass we caught a wire. They played that tape during the entire
end of cruise party as we headed for Subic. Still taking unofficial shit